Sky Lounge
During the day, Sky Lounge remains dark, vacant, and locked up tighter than the prescription pills at LiLo's house. After nightfall on Wednesdays through Sundays, however, both floors of the two-level downtown Phoenix discoteca come alive with colored lights, glowing video screens, hundreds of patrons, and a cacophonous cornucopia of Latin music. A steady stream of merengue hits, bachata beats, and reggaeton vibes pump out of a 20,000-watt Dynacord sound system, Occasionally, they're punctuated by the amplified voice of Sky Lounge's emcee making shout-outs to the crowd, announcing drink specials, and giving birthday wishes to those in the house. The interior typically is home to a rollicking sea of dancers both upstairs and downstairs, including plenty of cabrones and chicas. Gentlemen typically sport sharp shiny shirts and ghetto-fab garb, while ladies tend toward tight dresses, low-cut blouses, and skintight jeans. But even if you don't get to bailar with a bonita babe by night's end, chances are you'll eventually run into her mingling about amid the mass of humanity hanging out on the sidewalk after closing time.
Club Silver
Sexy, swanky, and stylish duds are a virtual necessity if one hopes to get past the dour and discerning doormen outside the entrance to Club Silver on a Friday night. These black-shirted beefcakes don't look a thing like Clinton Kelly, but they'll definitely dispense advice on what not to wear with as much rancor as the fabulous, fashion-minded TV personality as they guard the velvet ropes with impunity. (Hint: Dickies wear, athletic jerseys, or Coogi jorts do not an ensemble make.) Looking your best is probably a good idea since hundreds of members of the sexy Latin crowd will be scoping you out. Big ballers and top-shelf chicas sporting high-dollar threads fill the club during its biggest night of the week, popping bottles in VIP booths while the DJ duo of Kyko and Dario cast a spell over the crowd with a mix of tracks from such Hispanic hitmakers as Wisin y Yandel, Elvis Crespo, Don Omar, and Pitbull. The jam-packed scene makes moving around difficult, but folks tend to clear a path whenever waitresses bring out bottles of premium booze with glowing sparklers attached. After all, who wants to get their outfit scorched?
To the uninitiated, the life of a DJ may seem like one of total bliss. He works easy hours, gets to spin the latest hits while soaking up the adulation of club kids, and rakes in the hotties. Although some of these benefits of being a beat-master prove true (well, for the most part), there are also plenty of aggravations to go along with the job. Like when shifty club owners steal your gear, renege on money owed, or cancel your night after only a few weeks. Raul Guerra has endured such drama throughout his decade-long career on the decks but still possesses enough chutzpah, wherewithal, and passion for Latin music to keep on staging spin gigs in discotecas across the Valley. Guerra's worked a slew of local joints, including such hotspots as Axis/Radius and Club Tropicana in Scottsdale, Glendale's Kumbala Bar, La Taverna, Club Rain, and DWNTWN (just to name a few). He's also maintained an eight-year residence at Sky Lounge, dropping rock and pop en español along with Latin dance jams every Friday night. From the DJ booth, he paints from a vibrant musical palette, mixing pop hits from Elefantes and Los Enanitos Verdes with sweltering dance tracks from such sirens as Paulina Rubio and Shakira.
El Capri
This popular discoteca is packed with mamacitas who keep up with the booty-shaking beats of cumbia, mariachi, banda, and norteño music blasting across the huge dance floor. Whether it's a live band or a DJ spinning, these Latin melodies will keep you meneando tu culo all night long.
602-570-7965
This seven-member group performs at quinceañeras, weddings, and any special occasion you want to spice up with the flavor of authentic Mexican mariachis. Orgullo de Mexico performs every Sunday at the Matador Mexican restaurant in downtown Phoenix. Dressed in traditional charro suits, el cantante, accompanied by trumpets, guitars, a violin, and an amazing harpist, serenades diners with classic Mexican ballads and gladly takes requests. While members have come and gone over the years, the core group has been performing for 33 years in the Phoenix area. Book this popular group for $350 per hour, with a two-hour minimum, at least two months in advance, because their calendar fills up fast.
602-292-3828
If you have an occasion that demands a major celebración, go all out with a full Mexican musical ensemble with trumpet players, drummers, guitarist, a tuba player, and a cantante with a deep, rich voice that belts out all the Latino classics. At $600 an hour, they aren't exactly cheap, but it's great deal for this renowned 17-member banda. They perform a todo lados (just about anywhere) and for any occasion. Most recently, they marched through the Madison Events Center in downtown Phoenix, leading into the ring one of Phoenix's favorite boxers, super-bantamweight Alexis "Beaver" Santiago.
Club Deportivo Coliseo
There's nary an empty seat to be found on Sunday afternoons in the grandstands of El Gran Mercado. That's because more than a hundred fans of lucha libre (a.k.a. Mexican-style professional wrestling) never seem to miss the weekly wrestling action put on by the stars of Club Deportivo. As with most lucha events, many of the competitors are clad in unique colorful masks as they bounce and battle in the squared circle for the delight of fans. Fast-paced and high-flying competitors such as Psycho Extreme and Aguila Negra engage in mortal combat each week. Much like the more Americanized superstars of World Wrestling Entertainment, there are good guys and there are bad guys, only they're known as tcnicos (the heroes of lucha libre), who fight it out against rudos (villains). Although it's a bit more colorful than your average episode of WWE Smackdown, the raison d'être is pretty much the same: wrestlers battling for glory (as well as the Club Deportivo championship title) and soaking up the cheers and boos of those in attendance.

Best Place to Prepare for a Quinceañera

Azteca Wedding Plaza

Azteca Bridal
Those in the business of selling gowns for quinceañeras — the coming-of-age celebrations for young Latinas — say the fiestas aren't as popular, or as traditional, as they once were. One of the waning traditions is the birthday girl's starting the night off with a pair of sneakers that are later removed by her father and replaced with high-heeled shoes to signify her transformation from niña to mujer. But at 15, the señoritas are not as concerned about welcoming womanhood as they are about finding the perfect dress, perfect shoes, and throwing a perfect party that will make them the envy of all their friends. And there is no better place to prepare for a quinceañera than Azteca Wedding Plaza, a store packed with rows and rows of everything from extravagant gowns — think pink Cinderella dress with ruffled layers — to simple but sleek dresses. It also carries all the necessary accessories — earrings, veils, tiaras, and crowns — for the little princesa's special day.
Dulceria Pico Rico
Up your street cred with the kiddos this birthday go-round and swing by Dulcería Pico Rico for your piñata and candy fillings. Even better, take the kids with you and let them wander through the many colorful aisles of salty, sweet, and spicy treats. Mexican candies like marzipan, as well as tamarind- and chili-lime-flavored treats, are displayed next to festive party favors and rows upon rows of fancy piñatas. The standards (clowns, donkeys, and toucans) share space with popular superheroes, and they all feature a price point to fit your budget. Feliz cumpleaños a tí!
Mercado Mexico
When looking for Mexican imports, head to what we lovingly call Little Mexico, the small Yaqui reservation of Guadalupe. Right on the border of Tempe, Guadalupe's Mercado Mexico is muy auténtico. Sure, they have the standard Mexican tchotchkes on hand: colorful ceramic figurines, bundles of chile peppers, and celestial iron hangings. But they also have top-notch Mexican ceramics, so even the serious collector of talavera pottery will have plenty to peruse. There are also more calaveras than you've ever seen outside a Dia de los Muertos festival, and you can even snag a cow skull if you're going for that old-timey cowboy décor.

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